Cohabitation Agreements: Prenups for the Unmarried

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Agreements on Wednesday, August 3, 2016.

Increasingly, couples are living together without marrying. Legally, that’s more complicated than marriage, because you don’t have as much legal protection. Fortunately, there is an agreement for that.

According a recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), 45% of the members find that legal disputes between unmarried couples who had previously lived together have been on the rise during the past three years. In all, 26% have cited an increase in cohabitation agreement requests from unmarried couples.

I’ve written about the need for cohabitation agreements before. It is important to remember that not being married does not prevent a partner from attempting to make a claim on your assets once a live-in relationships ends.

Some of the protections that cohabitating couples lose out on are the protections provided by divorce laws: the presumption that the father is the father, inheritance laws, survivor’s benefits and many others.

A cohabitating couple that decided to split up may encounter the same conflicts about dividing the house, splitting the joint bank accounts, paying off the joint loans timesharing and child support that married couples have. However, the laws are not the same.

As the Huffington Post reports, if cohabiting partners do not have a mutual understanding of their financial, the legal consequences may lead to financial devastation for one of the partners. It could also produce significantly complex property disputes that cause both sides to incur substantial legal fees to address.

Cohabitation Agreements are designed primarily to protect financial interests. Before moving in with a partner, a previously signed cohabitation agreement can serve as an effective tool to ensure that your finances and assets are adequately protected.

Many times, unmarried cohabitants put their labor and own money into a live-in relationship, many of which are long in duration, because they ultimately expect that they will receive benefits from the other party arising from the commitment to be in a long term relationship. In many cases, those expectations are dashed when the relationship ends without the benefit of a cohabitation agreement.

In order to minimize doubts, and to ensure that both parties understand each other’s expectations, a legal cohabitation agreement may help. Some general tips for an agreement can include:

– Support payments

– Selling or keeping the jointly owned home

– What to do with jointly owned property if someone dies

– Medical decisions

– Who pays household bills and taxes

Agreements are useful in resolving a big oversight in the law. This is especially important as more and more couples choose to live together rather than marry.

The Huffington Post article is here.